Last week, my friend Theresa Linden released her Catholic teen novel Roland West, Loner, first in a series including the West brothers and their friends. It’s simply a great novel for teens of all ages, Catholic or not. The author deftly handles common teen experiences from sibling problems and the school social scene to first attraction and rediscovered faith.
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What follows is a fun interview with the neighbor boy who befriends Roland, making him less of a loner. As you’ll see, Peter’s a charmer.
Character interview of fifteen-year-old Peter Brandt conducted by author Theresa Linden, age undisclosed. This interview occurred sometime after the story began . . .
Peter: Yeah, okay. Whatever that means. Hey, I don’t mean to sound rude, but can we make this quick because I’m in the middle of a project? I’ve been working on this transmitter and receiver, and I finally got some parts in the mail so I can finish . . . never mind. What was your question?
Author: I didn’t ask one yet, but since you’re in a hurry, let’s get right to it. Do you, Peter, have any secrets?
Peter: Wow, are you kidding me? Is that really your first question? I mean, you can’t start with something simple like where do you live? Or what’s your favorite sport? Or how many awards have you won for science projects? You have to start with a question that might make me look bad. If I say no, I sound like I’m lying. If I say yes, you gotta wonder if you can trust me. I’m not answering that. What’s your next question?
Author: Okay, Peter. I didn’t mean to upset you. We’ll start with one of your questions. Would you like to tell us where you live?
Peter: Sure. That’s a great question. I live in a house attached to a bed-and-breakfast on the edge of a national forest in South Dakota. Black Hills. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s a great place to live. I know you think of South Dakota and you’re thinking flat land and buffalo, but we’ve got trees here, too. And we’ve got awesome rock formations and rivers and even a waterfall. My brother and I . . . Oh . . . never mind.
Author: No, please continue. Tell us about your brother.
Peter: My brother? Toby? Whew. I thought you meant the waterfall.
Author: Okay, tell us about the waterfall. Is it near your home? How big is it?
Peter: Forget I mentioned the waterfall. I’ll tell you about Toby. You did ask about my brother, right?
Author: Very well. Tell us about Toby.
Peter: Okay, Toby’s my little brother. Well, he’s not that little. He’s nine years old, and he’s big for his age. And he’s a bit of a pest. I know you’re thinking every older brother says that about their younger brother, but it’s different in my case. Toby’s autistic. You know what that is, right? Sure you do; like one in sixty-something kids have autism. Anyway, when he’s a pest, he’s a pest over and over and over and over. And sometimes he doesn’t let up until steam blows out my ears. And whenever we’re out in public, he does the most incredibly embarrassing things.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’m a meanie. I should be more tolerant of my little autistic brother. Well, I’m not mean. And it’s not like I don’t love him. I’d never let anyone say or do anything bad to him. Want to see the bully in me come out? Do something mean to my little brother. I’ll feed you your shorts. Or whatever you’re wearing. But people don’t understand what it’s like. I mean . . .
Author: Do you need a moment? You look a little choked up.
Peter: No, I’m just clearing my throat. It’s just that sometimes I wish . . . well, I wish he didn’t have autism. I wish I could reach through to him. That I could have what other brothers have. You know? I just want more for him. And it’s . . . hard sometimes.
Author: Well, thanks for sharing, Peter. I have an autistic son. So I can kind of understand what you’re going through. But I’m sure it’s different for brothers. So would you like to tell us about the waterfall now?
Peter: Move on. What’s your next question?
Author: Okay, I can see some resistance to that subject. I guess this kind of goes back to question number one.
Peter: Are you kidding me? Did you just do that? Wow, you know, that’s not fair. I don’t answer question one so I’ve got something to hide. Unbelievable. Are you . . . are you laughing at me?
Author: No. No, I’m just smiling. You seem like a nice person, Peter. So can you tell us about your friends?
Peter: My friends? Uh, sure. So which ones? Cuz I’m pretty popular. Okay, I’ll tell you about my friend Dominic. We’re pretty good friends, but we haven’t always been. That’s a long story so we won’t go there. But Dominic knows just about every kid in school, and he knows everything about every kid in school. And sometimes he shares that information, so let’s just say it’s good to be friends with Dominic. Oh, did I mention he was in a wheelchair? You kind of don’t think of him being in the chair, really, unless you want to go hike in the woods or something.
And then there’s Caitlyn. I guess I should mention her, but she’s more like my sister. We’ve been friends since we were crawling around on all fours. She’s got two younger sisters and two younger brothers, lives in town in a little ranch house. Not sure how they all fit in that house. Anyway. If I were to describe her, I’d say she looks like a long-haired orange cat. You know, cuz she’s got long red hair and her eyes are green and have this perpetual naïve look.
Author: I don’t see what’s so funny. Can you please stop laughing so we can continue the interview?
Peter: Okay, okay. It’s not that I don’t like her. I do. She’s nice. To everyone. Even people she should’t be nice to because they’re jerks. It’s just that she’s like a sister to me, so you know how that is. Have you got any sisters?
Author: Well, actually, I do. But I can’t say I’ve made fun of her appearance. I like my sister. She’s actually the one who inspired me to write.
Author: Okay, so I understand you made a new friend recently. Care to tell us about him?
Peter: Oh, you mean Roland? I don’t know too much about him. I mean, I know the rumors, but you can’t really go by those. And he’s not too talkative. I know he lives in a big house. If I told you what it looked like, you wouldn’t believe me. You kind of have to see it for yourself. And I know he’s got two older twin brothers. They’re juniors. I gather he doesn’t get along well with them. So . . . You’re the writer. Why don’t you tell me about him?
Author: Well, you did say you were in a hurry. So thank you for your time. It’s been great getting to know you and—
Peter: Looks like I’m not the only one with secrets.
Roland West, Loner by Theresa Linden
Roland West, Loner is a contemporary Christian story of a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself friendless at a new school and the subject of cruel rumors. Despised by older twin brothers, he feels utterly alone but not without hope. If he can avoid his brothers while his father is away, he might have a solution to his problem. When his brothers lock him away, having a plan of their own, he gets rescued by an unlikely pair: a neighboring autistic boy and his brother. Struggling to trust his new friends, secrets, rumors, lies, and an unusual inheritance put him on a journey that just might have the power to change the life of this loner.
Roland West, Loner addresses loneliness, sibling relationships, facing fears, autism, and the Communion of the Saints. Susan Peek, highly popular author of saint stories for teens, including A Soldier Surrenders said, “A heartwarming tale of friendship, faith, and forgiveness. Linden had me laughing on one page and crying on the next. The story stayed with me long after I closed the last page. Simply put, Roland West, Loner is the best Catholic fiction I’ve read in ages.”
Theresa Linden, an avid reader and writer since grade school, grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy.
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0189FKSPE
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